In each of his first three years at the helm, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has come under scrutiny for his unwillingness to break the bank on big-name free agents, and that narrative has unsurprisingly continued this offseason.
Luckily for Ballard, he has the excuse of preserving cap space to extend homegrown stars — like linebacker Darius Leonard, right guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith — to fall back on when he’s faced with such criticism.
But…where are they at, though?
In Ballard’s defense, the respective deals for wideout TY Hilton and cornerback Xavier Rhodes indicated that he and the Colts were breaking out of their proverbial shell and ready to splurge to further improve the roster.
However, those vibes didn’t last very long, as Indy is back to making moves that fans can’t help but roll their eyes at.
After a relatively optimistic weekend, the Colts announced the signing of offensive tackle Julién Davenport on Monday.
The Colts continuing to add offensive line depth won’t resonate with fans.
The NFL is unforgiving when it comes to offensive lines remaining healthy for a full season, so we’re all for adding as much insurance as roster regulations allow. However, it’s getting increasingly frustrating that Ballard continues to sign players who will play minimal roles as opposed to surefire starters.
Not only do the Colts have some $30 million in remaining cap space (even after the Hilton deal), but they still haven’t identified their starting left tackle after veteran Antony Castonzo shocked the world and retired after a decade in the league.
Perhaps Indy is currently entrenched in negotiations for his replacement and is biding time by adding depth pieces, which are needed given that last season’s reserve tackles Chaz Green and Le’Raven Clark are free agents and unlikely to be brought back.
However, the signing of Davenport will do little in terms of assuring fans that the offensive line will continue operating smoothly if a starter was forced to miss time with an injury.
Drafted in the fourth round back in 2017, Davenport has started just 18 out of 51 career games over his first four seasons, amassing a lowly 42.5% snap share during that span.
The 26-year-old tackle is coming off a year in which he earned a striking 87.6 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, but that was based on a 53-snap sample size. For context, in the previous two campaigns (1,548 snaps) he received a combined blocking grade of 54.6, which is well below the league average.
Again, it’s duly noted that this was a depth signing for the Colts, but we’re not going to jump through hoops just because they have viable reserve options up front. Perhaps our opinion will change once we find out who’ll be starting at left tackle, but until then this move does little to move the needle.